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Tighter standards loom for offsite construction

3 May 2018 | By Neil Gerrard

The offsite construction sector faces the prospect of tighter standards as two significant projects examining its use get underway.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has agreed to invest £50,000 in a project promoting the standardisation of “precision manufactured” homes.

Meanwhile peers have begun investigating offsite manufacturing’s productivity potential, and the BSI is examining whether additional standards may be necessary for the sector.

Khan’s project is to be led by residential consultancy Cast, headed by Mark Farmer (pictured), and architect Bryden Wood. It will be jointly funded in partnership with industry although Khan’s office did not give details of who was involved or the scale of their investment, saying it would be revealed “in due course”.

“The piece of work that will follow will be delivered collaboratively with industry and will create a fantastic opportunity for London to take the lead in moving construction nearer to manufacturing.”

Nicky Gavron

Khan’s decision follows a recommendation by the London Assembly’s planning committee, chaired by Nicky Gavron, in its report into the contribution of offsite manufactured homes to London’s housing crisis, called Designed, Sealed, Delivered, to produce a manufactured housing design code for London.

Work is due to start immediately and will be completed by the autumn.

The committee will consider the potential benefits of offsite manufacture and any drawbacks and obstacles to its wider use.

Key outputs of the project will include: research identifying what the greatest opportunities for standardisation of components are; development of design principles for precision manufactured components; and development of tools and designs to show how these principles can be applied in practice.

Meanwhile, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee will conduct an inquiry into offsite manufacturing, prompted by construction’s lagging productivity compared to other industries, and will examine how changes to public procurement might stimulate the sector.

Ian Pannell, director of trade body Buildoffsite, said: “The need for additional standards for offsite runs across all construction markets – not just housing. Increased standardisation will engender greater confidence among clients and their design and construction teams, which in turn will support a step-change increase in demand.”

He added that “BSI, with support from Buildoffsite, is currently looking at gaps in coverage and the need for additional standards”.

Commenting on Khan’s announcement, Jaimie Johnston, director of Bryden Wood, said: “This project is an opportunity to bring together the needs of housing providers, designers and manufacturers to create a common set of principles that work for all. This is a much-needed step.”

In a tweet, Farmer also welcomed the mayor’s initiative, saying: “Sometimes tinkering with the rules of the game is not enough – you have to change the game.”

Gavron said: “The piece of work that will follow will be delivered collaboratively with industry and will create a fantastic opportunity for London to take the lead in moving construction nearer to manufacturing.”

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